Reviews and Awards

Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People 2020

The Notable Social Studies list is a joint project of the National Council for Social Studies (NCSS) and the Children’s Book Council. Titles selected to this list are written primarily for children in grades K-12 and is comprised of titles that are deemed exceptional books for use in social studies classrooms by social studies teachers. Random House Children’s Books is proud to have eight titles on their 2020 list!

Kindergarten to Second Grade

Third to Fifth Grade

Ninth to Twelfth Grade

2020 ALA Award Winners and Honorees

RANDOLPH CALDECOTT HONOR

Awarded to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children.

Double Bass Blues

Double Bass Blues By Andrea J. Loney; illustrated by Rudy Gutierrez

Nic is an aspiring musician whose life spans two different worlds–his suburban school where he wows his friends in the orchestra, and the busy city streets of his home where he’s jostled by the crowd. Nic makes his way home from a busy day at school with a double bass on his back, the symphony of his surroundings in his heart, and a sweet surprise for the reader at the end of his journey. This is a sweet, melodious picture book about how dedication, music, and family can overcome any obstacle.

CORETTA SCOTT KING - JOHN STEPTOE ILLUSTRATOR AWARD FOR NEW TALENT

This award affirms new talent and offers visibility to excellence in writing or illustration at the beginning of a career as a published book creator.

What Is Given from the Heart

What Is Given from the Heart By Patricia C. McKissack; illustrated by April Harrison

“Misery loves company,” Mama says to James Otis. It’s been a rough couple of months for them, but Mama says as long as they have their health and strength, they’re blessed. One Sunday before Valentine’s Day, Reverend Dennis makes an announcement during the service: the Temples have lost everything in a fire, and the church is collecting anything that might be useful to them. James thinks hard about what he can add to the Temples’ “love box,” but what does he have worth giving? With her extraordinary gift for storytelling, McKissack–with stunning illustrations by Harrison–delivers a touching, powerful tale of compassion and reminds us all that what is given from the heart reaches the heart.

SCHNEIDER FAMILY BOOK AWARD

MIDDLE-GRADE WINNER

Honors an author or illustrator for a book that embodies an artistic expression of the disability experience for child and adolescent audiences.

Song for a Whale

Song for a Whale By Lynne Kelly

From fixing the class computer to repairing old radios, twelve-year-old Iris is a tech genius. But she’s the only deaf person in her school, so people often treat her like she’s not very smart. If you’ve ever felt like no one was listening to you, then you know how hard that can be.

When she learns about Blue 55, a real whale who is unable to speak to other whales, Iris understands how he must feel. Then she has an idea: she should invent a way to “sing” to him! But he’s three thousand miles away. How will she play her song for him?

Full of heart and poignancy, this affecting story by sign language interpreter Lynne Kelly shows how a little determination can make big waves.

STONEWALL – MIKE MORGAN & LARRY ROMANS CHILDREN’S & YOUNG ADULT LITERATURE AWARD

HONOR BOOK

Awarded to books for exceptional merit relating to the gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender experience.

Pet

Pet By Akwaeke Emezi

There are no monsters anymore, or so the children in the city of Lucille are taught. Jam and her best friend, Redemption, have grown up with this lesson all their life. But when Jam meets Pet, a creature made of horns and colors and claws, who emerges from one of her mother’s paintings and a drop of Jam’s blood, she must reconsider what she’s been told. Pet has come to hunt a monster, and the shadow of something grim lurks in Redemption’s house. Jam must fight not only to protect her best friend but also to uncover the truth and the answer to the question–How do you save the world from monsters if no one will admit they exist?

SYDNEY TAYLOR BOOK AWARD

MIDDLE-GRADE WINNER

This award is for outstanding books for children and teens that authentically portray the Jewish experience.

White Bird: A Wonder Story

White Bird: A Wonder Story By R. J. Palacio

In R. J. Palacio’s bestselling collection of stories Auggie & Me, which expands on characters in Wonder, readers were introduced to Julian’s grandmother, Grandmère. Here, Palacio makes her graphic novel debut with Grandmère’s heartrending story: how she, a young Jewish girl, was hidden by a family in a Nazi-occupied French village during World War II; how the boy she and her classmates once shunned became her savior and best friend.

SYDNEY TAYLOR BOOK AWARD

NOTABLE BOOK FOR TEENS

A Light in the Darkness

A Light in the Darkness By Albert Marrin

Janusz Korczak was more than a good doctor. He was a hero. The Dr. Spock of his day, he established orphanages run on his principle of honoring children and shared his ideas with the public in books and on the radio. He famously said that “children are not the people of tomorrow, but people today.” Korczak was a man ahead of his time, whose work ultimately became the basis for the U.N. Declaration of the Rights of the Child.

Korczak was also a Polish Jew on the eve of World War II. He turned down multiple opportunities for escape, standing by the children in his orphanage as they became confined to the Warsaw Ghetto. Dressing them in their Sabbath finest, he led their march to the trains and ultimately perished with his children in Treblinka.

YALSA EXCELLENCE IN NONFICTION AWARD - FINALIST

This award honors the best nonfiction book published for young adults (ages 12-18).

A Light in the Darkness

A Light in the Darkness By Albert Marrin

Janusz Korczak was more than a good doctor. He was a hero. The Dr. Spock of his day, he established orphanages run on his principle of honoring children and shared his ideas with the public in books and on the radio. He famously said that “children are not the people of tomorrow, but people today.” Korczak was a man ahead of his time, whose work ultimately became the basis for the U.N. Declaration of the Rights of the Child.

Korczak was also a Polish Jew on the eve of World War II. He turned down multiple opportunities for escape, standing by the children in his orphanage as they became confined to the Warsaw Ghetto. Dressing them in their Sabbath finest, he led their march to the trains and ultimately perished with his children in Treblinka.

2019 ALA Award Winners and Honorees

CORETTA SCOTT KING AUTHOR HONOR

This award is given annually to outstanding African American authors and illustrators of books for children and young adults that demonstrate an appreciation of African American culture and universal human values. 

The Season of Styx Malone

The Season of Styx Malone By Kekla Magoon

Caleb Franklin and his big brother Bobby Gene are excited to have adventures in the woods behind their house. But Caleb dreams of venturing beyond their ordinary small town.

Then Caleb and Bobby Gene meet new neighbor Styx Malone. Styx is sixteen and oozes cool. Styx promises the brothers that together, the three of them can pull off the Great Escalator Trade—exchanging one small thing for something better until they achieve their wildest dream. But as the trades get bigger, the brothers soon find themselves in over their heads. Styx has secrets—secrets so big they could ruin everything.

LEGACY AWARD WINNER

Formerly known as the Wilder Award, the Legacy Award is given to an author for their body of work.

Walter Dean Myers

Walter Dean Myers (1937-2014) was one of the premier authors of children’s books. Among his many honors are two Newbery Honor Books, Scorpions and Somewhere in the Darkness. He is also a two-time recipient of the Coretta Scott King Award for Now Is Your Time! and Fallen Angels. In addition, Myers has received the Margaret A. Edwards Award for his contribution to young adult literature. Myers was also named the 2012 National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature. 

SYDNEY TAYLOR BOOK AWARD

This award is for outstanding books for children and teens that authentically portray the Jewish experience.

Winner for Younger Readers

All-of-a-Kind Family Hanukkah

All-of-a-Kind Family Hanukkah By Emily Jenkins; illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky

Acclaimed author Emily Jenkins (A Greyhound, a Groundhog) and Caldecott Award-winning artist Paul O. Zelinsky (Rapunzel) bring the beloved All-of-a-Kind Family to life in a new format. Fans, along with those just meeting the five girls (“all of a kind,” as their parents say), will join them back in 1912, on the Lower East Side of NYC, and watch as preparations for Hanukkah are made. When Gertie, the youngest, is not allowed to help prepare latkes, she throws a tantrum. Banished to the girls’ bedroom, she can still hear the sounds and smell the smells of a family getting ready to celebrate. But then Papa comes home and she is allowed out—and given the best job of all: lighting the first candle on the menorah.

Winner for Teen Readers

What the Night Sings

What the Night Sings By Written & illustrated by Vesper Stamper

After losing her family and everything she knew in the Nazi concentration camps, Gerta is finally liberated, only to find herself completely alone. Without her papa, her music, or even her true identity, she must move past the task of surviving and on to living her life. In the displaced persons camp where she is staying, Gerta meets Lev, a fellow teen survivor who she just might be falling for, despite her feelings for someone else. With a newfound Jewish identity she never knew she had, and a return to the life of music she thought she lost forever, Gerta must choose how to build a new future.

Honor Book for Younger Readers

Through the Window: Views of Marc Chagall's Life and Art

Through the Window: Views of Marc Chagall's Life and Art By Barb Rosenstock; illustrated by Mary GrandPre

Known for both his paintings and stained-glass windows, Marc Chagall rose from humble beginnings to become one of the world’s most renowned artists. Admired for his use of color and the powerful emotion in his work, Chagall led a career that spanned decades and continents, and he never stopped growing. This lyrical narrative shows readers, through many different windows, the pre-WWI childhood and wartime experiences that shaped Chagall’s path.

Honor Book for Older Readers

All Three Stooges

All Three Stooges By Erica S. Perl

Spoiler alert: This book is not about the Three Stooges. It’s about Noah and Dash, two seventh graders who are best friends and comedy junkies. That is, they were best friends, until Dash’s father died suddenly and Dash shut Noah out. Which Noah deserved, according to Noa, the girl who, annoyingly, shares both his name and his bar mitzvah day.

Now Noah’s confusion, frustration, and determination to get through to Dash are threatening to destroy more than just their friendship. But what choice does he have? As Noah sees it, sometimes you need to risk losing everything, even your sense of humor, to prove that gone doesn’t have to mean “gone for good.”

ASIAN/PACIFIC AMERICAN AWARD FOR LITERATURE

The Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature honors individual work about Asian/Pacific Americans and their heritage, based on literary and artistic merit.

The House That Lou Built

The House That Lou Built By Mae Respicio

Lou Bulosan-Nelson has the ultimate summer DIY project. She’s going to build her own “tiny house,” 100 square feet all her own. She shares a room with her mom in her grandmother’s house, and longs for a place where she can escape her crazy but lovable extended Filipino family. Lou enjoys her woodshop class and creating projects, and she plans to build the house on land she inherited from her dad, who died before she was born. But then she finds out that the land may not be hers for much longer.

Lou discovers it’s not easy to save her land, or to build a house. But she won’t give up; with the help of friends and relatives, her dream begins to take shape, and she learns the deeper meaning of home and family.

WILLIAM C. MORRIS AWARD FINALIST

This award honors a debut book published by a first-time author writing for teens and celebrating impressive new voices in young adult literature.

What the Night Sings

What the Night Sings By Written & illustrated by Vesper Stamper

After losing her family and everything she knew in the Nazi concentration camps, Gerta is finally liberated, only to find herself completely alone. Without her papa, her music, or even her true identity, she must move past the task of surviving and on to living her life. In the displaced persons camp where she is staying, Gerta meets Lev, a fellow teen survivor who she just might be falling for, despite her feelings for someone else. With a newfound Jewish identity she never knew she had, and a return to the life of music she thought she lost forever, Gerta must choose how to build a new future.

YALSA EXCELLENCE IN NONFICTION AWARD FINALIST

This award honors the best nonfiction book published for young adults (ages 12-18).

The Beloved World of Sonia Sotomayor

The Beloved World of Sonia Sotomayor By Sonia Sotomayor

Sonia Sotomayor was just a girl when she dared to dream big. Her dream? To become a lawyer and a judge even though she’d never met one of either, and none lived in her neighborhood.

Sonia did not let the hardships of her background—which included growing up in the rough housing projects of New York City’s South Bronx, dealing with juvenile diabetes, coping with parents who argued and fought personal demons, and worrying about money—stand in her way. Always, she believed in herself. Her determination, along with guidance from generous mentors and the unwavering love of her extended Puerto Rican family, propelled her ever forward.

Eventually, all of Sonia’s hard work led to her appointment as an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court in 2009, a role that she has held ever since.

Learn about Justice Sotomayor’s rise and her amazing work as well as about the Supreme Court in this fascinating memoir that shows that no matter the obstacles, dreams can come true.

Visit us on Pinterest to learn more about our current and past award recipients.

Congratulations to Our 2018 ALA Award Winners!

The Stars Beneath Our Feet

CORETTA SCOTT KING JOHN STEPTOE AWARD FOR NEW TALENT
THE STARS BENEATH OUR FEET by David Barclay Moore

"The right story at the right time. . . . It’s not just a narrative; it’s an experience. It’s the novel we’ve been waiting for." —The New York Times

A boy tries to steer a safe path through the projects in Harlem in the wake of his brother’s death in this outstanding debut novel that celebrates community and creativity.

** WINNER OF THE CORETTA SCOTT KING–JOHN STEPTOE AWARD FOR NEW TALENT! **

MICHAEL B. JORDAN TO DIRECT MOVIE ADAPTATION!

SIX STARRED REVIEWS!

It’s Christmas Eve in Harlem, but twelve-year-old Lolly Rachpaul and his mom aren’t celebrating. They’re still reeling from his older brother’s death in a gang-related shooting just a few months earlier. Then Lolly’s mother’s girlfriend brings him a gift that will change everything: two enormous bags filled with Legos. Lolly’s always loved Legos, and he prides himself on following the kit instructions exactly. Now, faced with a pile of building blocks and no instructions, Lolly must find his own way forward.
 
His path isn’t clear—and the pressure to join a “crew,” as his brother did, is always there. When Lolly and his friend are beaten up and robbed, joining a crew almost seems like the safe choice. But building a fantastical Lego city at the community center provides Lolly with an escape—and an unexpected bridge back to the world. 
 
David Barclay Moore paints a powerful portrait of a boy teetering on the edge—of adolescence, of grief, of violence—and shows how Lolly’s inventive spirit helps him build a life with firm foundations and open doors.
 
MORE PRAISE FOR THE STARS BENEATH OUR FEET:

A New York Times Notable Book
A Time Top 10 Children's Books of the Year
A Boston Globe Best Children's Book of the Year
A Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year
A Kirkus Reviews Best Children's Book of the Year
A Shelf Awareness Best Children's Book of the Year
An ALA-YALSA Quick Pick
An ALA-ALSC Notable Children's Book

A fast and furious read in which we meet some amazing people, people that stay with us. David Barclay Moore is an exciting new voice. We definitely haven’t heard the last of his brilliance.” —Jacqueline Woodson, Newbery Honor and National Book Award–winning of Brown Girl Dreaming

The Stars Beneath Our Feet is about the weight of the world on the back of a child, and the creative tools necessary to alleviate that pressure. I found myself rooting for Lolly, and you will too.” —Jason Reynolds, Coretta Scott King Honor Award Winner for As Brave As You

Dear Martin

WILLIAM C. MORRIS AWARD FINALIST
DEAR MARTIN by Nic Stone

"Powerful, wrenching.” –JOHN GREEN, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Turtles All the Way Down

"Raw and gripping." –JASON REYNOLDS, New York Times bestselling coauthor of All American Boys

"A must-read!” –ANGIE THOMAS, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Hate U Give

Raw, captivating, and undeniably real, Nic Stone joins industry giants Jason Reynolds and Walter Dean Myers as she boldly tackles American race relations in this stunning #1 New York Times bestselling debut, a William C. Morris Award Finalist.


Justyce McAllister is a good kid, an honor student, and always there to help a friend—but none of that matters to the police officer who just put him in handcuffs. Despite leaving his rough neighborhood behind, he can't escape the scorn of his former peers or the ridicule of his new classmates.

Justyce looks to the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for answers. But do they hold up anymore? He starts a journal to Dr. King to find out.

Then comes the day Justyce goes driving with his best friend, Manny, windows rolled down, music turned up—way up, sparking the fury of a white off-duty cop beside them. Words fly. Shots are fired. Justyce and Manny are caught in the crosshairs. In the media fallout, it's Justyce who is under attack.

"Vivid and powerful." -Booklist, Starred Review
 
"A visceral portrait of a young man reckoning with the ugly, persistent violence of social injustice." -Publishers Weekly

You're Welcome, Universe

SCHNEIDER FAMILY BOOK AWARD
YOU’RE WELCOME, UNIVERSE by Whitney Gardner

A vibrant, edgy, fresh new YA voice for fans of More Happy Than Not and Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, packed with interior graffiti.

Winner of the Schneider Family Book Award!

 
When Julia finds a slur about her best friend scrawled across the back of the Kingston School for the Deaf, she covers it up with a beautiful (albeit illegal) graffiti mural.
 
Her supposed best friend snitches, the principal expels her, and her two mothers set Julia up with a one-way ticket to a “mainstream” school in the suburbs, where she’s treated like an outcast as the only deaf student. The last thing she has left is her art, and not even Banksy himself could convince her to give that up.
 
Out in the ’burbs, Julia paints anywhere she can, eager to claim some turf of her own. But Julia soon learns that she might not be the only vandal in town. Someone is adding to her tags, making them better, showing off—and showing Julia up in the process. She expected her art might get painted over by cops. But she never imagined getting dragged into a full-blown graffiti war.
 
Told with wit and grit by debut author Whitney Gardner, who also provides gorgeous interior illustrations of Julia’s graffiti tags, You’re Welcome, Universe introduces audiences to a one-of-a-kind protagonist who is unabashedly herself no matter what life throws in her way.

"[A] spectacular debut...a moving, beautifully written contemporary novel full of quirky art and complicated friendships...this book is a gift to be thankful for."—BookRiot

The Murderer's Ape

MILDRED L. BATCHELDER AWARD
THE MURDERER’S APE by Jakob Wegelius, translated by Peter Graves

"This may be the most charming book I’ve read all year." --The New York Times
 
"I don’t know when I last read a book with such pure and unalloyed pleasure." –Philip Pullman, internationally bestselling author of the His Dark Materials series
 
Winner of the Mildred L. Batchelder award, this is a captivating story about dark truths and heinous crimes as well as unexpected friendships, with detailed black-and-white illustrations throughout. Perfect for fans of Brian Selznick and mystery and detective stories.
 
Sally Jones is not only a loyal friend, she’s an extraordinary individual. In overalls or in a maharaja’s turban, this unique gorilla moves among humans without speaking but understanding everything. She and the Chief are devoted comrades who operate a cargo boat. A job they are offered pays big bucks, but the deal ends badly, and the Chief is falsely convicted of murder.
 
For Sally Jones this is the start of a harrowing quest for survival and to clear the Chief's name. Powerful forces are working against her, and they will do anything to protect their secrets.

Random House Children’s Books is seeing STARS!

We are so proud of all the books we publish—from our stellar storytime picture books to our adventure-filled middle-grade novels, and our thrilling and realistic young adult books—but these star-studded titles have a special place in our hearts.

Learn more about these all-star books with THREE or more starred reviews!

And the stars keep coming!